In a preliminary report issued Tuesday, the National Traffic Safety Board gave some specific details about the short flight of the twin-engine Piper Cheyenne which crashed in Lafayette on Dec. 28. Prior to takeoff, pilot Ian Biggs was instructed to take an initial course of 240 degrees at 2,000 feet.
After takeoff, the plane began to climb at a rate of between 1,000 and 1,900 feet per minute as Biggs began a slight turn to the right, toward his course of 240 degrees.
Here are the checkpoints the NTSB report laid out from the Federal Aviation Administration data:
9:20:05 a.m. — The plane was climbing through 150 feet above sea level (110 feet above ground).
9:20:13 a.m. — The aircraft begins to roll back toward wings level.
9:20:20 a.m. — The aircraft rolled through wings level, continuing to roll to the left. It was on a course of 232 degrees at 475 feet, accelerating through 165 knots. It continued rolling to the left, away from its assigned course of 240 degrees, at approximately 2 degrees per second.
9:20:37 a.m. — The aircraft achieves its maximum height of 925 feet above sea level.
9:20:40 a.m. — The airplane continues to roll to the left and begins its descent. Its roll (the tilt of the wings relative to the horizon) was at about 35 degrees. It was traveling on a course of 200 degrees at 172 knots. As the airplane descended through 700 feet, the air traffic controller issued a low altitude alert to the pilot. Biggs did not respond.
9:20:52 a.m. — The aircraft reaches a roll angle of 70 degrees as it descends through 600 feet at a rate of between 2,000 and 3,000 feet per minute.
9:20:59 a.m. — The airplane descends through 175 feet in a steep dive.
According to the report, several witnesses saw the airplane come out of the low clouds in a steep, left-bank turn. One witness said that the airplane rolled right, bringing its wings level, just before it struck the trees and transmission lines and crashed on the roadway.